Period blood colours

Period blood colours


You may or may not be surprised to hear that periods aren’t always red. They can come in a wide range of shades and hues! Know that it is completely normal and expected for your period blood to range in colour and this might even vary from month to month [8]. So, let’s break down some of the colours you may come across – thankfully, there aren’t as many varieties as the colour wheel.

Why does period blood have different colours?

The colour of your period blood can vary, and that's completely normal. Fresh blood is often a bright red colour, indicating that it's newly released and flowing more heavily. As the blood stays in the uterus for longer or the flow becomes lighter, it can turn to a darker red, brown, or even black colour. This is because, over time, the iron in the haemoglobin (the protein that gives blood its red colour) reacts with oxygen and changes to a brownish colour. Additionally, the colour of your period blood can change depending on other factors such as hormones and different conditions. Read on to learn more.

Different colours

What does brown or black period blood mean?

It is common to feel a bit frightened and overwhelmed if you come across dark-looking period blood that might appear brown or even black. If this is you, take a deep breath, you have nothing to fear. These colours are common at both the start and end of your period and generally, just indicate that the blood is older. It is darker in shade as it has had longer to interact with oxygen, either because it is flowing slower (like at the end of your period) or perhaps because it is leftover period blood from your last period. In the same way that bananas will brown when opened or how a cut forms a dark scab, your period blood also darkens over time when exposed to air (phew!).

What does red period blood mean?

Bright red blood is newer blood that is flowing quickly, which you might find occurs on heavier days. This is usually brighter in colour because it passes out of your body at a faster rate, meaning it has less time to interact with oxygen and become darker before exiting the body [9]. You might find that the bright red blood shifts throughout your period to a darker red, which is also completely normal and just indicates that the blood has been in your body for longer (again, more time to oxidise).

What does light pink period blood mean?

Sometimes at the start or end of a period, you may notice a pink-like appearance. This can indicate a lighter flow, a small amount of period blood mixing with cervical mucus, low iron or anemia which can make the blood appear more pinkish due to the lack of oxygen in the blood, low estrogen levels or an implantation bleed.

What does orange period blood mean?

Orange period blood can be a lighter shade of red mixed with cervical fluid, which is normal. However, it can also be a sign of infection or other underlying health issues. It is important to pay attention to other symptoms such as discomfort, odor, itch, or anything else unusual. If you have any concerns, it is best to speak with a healthcare provider.

What does grey period blood mean?

Any grey period blood can also signify infection, such as bacterial vaginosis, which is a type of vaginal infection or trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection. This colour might be accompanied by other symptoms, such as odour, itch or irritation. It's best to make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

When to consult your doctor

Most changes in period blood colour, thankfully, are no cause for alarm. However, if you do notice any persistent changes in period blood colour that are accompanied by other symptoms such as discomfort, pain, odour, itch, or anything else unusual, it is best to speak with a healthcare provider.

References
  • 1. Gunter J. The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina -- Separating the Myth from the Medicine: Citadel Press; 2019.
  • 2. Care ACoAH. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 349, November 2006: Menstruation in girls and adolescents: using the menstrual cycle as a vital sign. Obstet Gynecol. 2006;108(5):1323-8.
  • 3. Fraser IS, McCarron G, Markham R, Resta T. Blood and total fluid content of menstrual discharge. Obstet Gynecol. 1985;65(2):194-8.
  • 4. Yang H, Zhou B, Prinz M, Siegel D. Proteomic analysis of menstrual blood. Mol Cell Proteomics. 2012;11(10):1024-35.
  • 5. Garg S, Anand T. Menstruation related myths in India: strategies for combating it. J Family Med Prim Care. 2015;4(2):184-6.
  • 6. Johnston-Robledo I, Chrisler JC. The Menstrual Mark: Menstruation as Social Stigma. Sex Roles. 2013;68(1):9-18.
  • 7. Jones MM. Human Reproductive Biology: Elsevier Science; 2012.
  • 8. Dasharathy SS, Mumford SL, Pollack AZ, Perkins NJ, Mattison DR, Wactawski-Wende J, et al. Menstrual bleeding patterns among regularly menstruating women. American journal of epidemiology. 2012;175(6):536-45.
  • 9. Garry R, Hart R, Karthigasu KA, Burke C. A re-appraisal of the morphological changes within the endometrium during menstruation: a hysteroscopic, histological and scanning electron microscopic study. Hum Reprod. 2009;24(6):1393-401.
  • 10. Fraser IS, Critchley HO, Broder M, Munro MG. The FIGO recommendations on terminologies and definitions for normal and abnormal uterine bleeding. Semin Reprod Med. 2011;29(5):383-90.
  • 11. Sriprasert I, Pakrashi T, Kimble T, Archer DF. Heavy menstrual bleeding diagnosis and medical management. Contracept Reprod Med. 2017;2:20.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter